Couple losing state-funded respite housing on Dec. 31 feeling stress of possible return to homelessness

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Three weeks after moving from homelessness to Granite House in Derry, Lexi and Brandon feel like they have a second chance at life. The were told Dec. 12 that they must find a new place to live by Dec. 31. Courtesy Photo

MANCHESTER, NH – With only nine days left to find an apartment they can afford, a Manchester couple is feeling the stress of possibly returning to homelessness.

Lexi and Brandon were among those living in tents outside the county courthouse when they climbed into a van along with 22 others who were willing to leave the property right away on the promise of a warm bed and some good food, no strings attached. They found out last week that state funding runs out Dec. 31 for the respite beds. They thought they had until March to sort out their future.

Today, they are two of only seven people remaining at Granite House in Derry. The others, according to CEO Eric Spofford, either left on their own or were asked to leave. House rules include no drugs or alcohol.

The arrangement, to move 22 homeless people from the courthouse to the recovery center, was brokered by Gov. Chris Sununu amid pressure to do something about the more than 100 people encamped at the Hillsborough County Superior North Courthouse. After five people left the first night, five more were brought in the next day, but most have returned to Manchester, according to Fire Chief Dan Goonan.

A request for details of the extended contract between the Department of Health and Human Services and Granite Recovery House has gone unanswered. But a review of the previous one-year contract approved by the Executive Council in Oct. 2019 shows that the cost of the respite beds was paid at $250 per bed per day, whether or not they were used. That contract was paid for by SAMHSA State Opioid Response Grant money and was meant to help create recovery beds for those unable to find treatment through other avenues as part of the state’s Doorway program.

In response to a previous story on Lexi and Brandon, DHHS spokesman Jake Leon on Dec. 12 said that the beds were paid for with CARES Act money, and confirmed funding expires Dec. 31. However, he did not elaborate on how the respite beds qualified for CARES Act funding, or how the expenditure was approved.

Several requests for more detailed information was also forwarded to the financial administrator of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Relief and Recovery, which provides oversight for all CARES Act expenditures. There has been no response.

“We are hopeful that additional federal funding will be made available to allow us to extend the current contract. Were that not to happen, the Department will ensure that the individuals who are receiving treatment and shelter will continue to receive these services in 2021,” wrote Leon, in answer to a request for more information about the contract extension.

Several follow-up emails to DHHS asking what funding the state is prepared to use to make sure Lexi and Brandon and others currently in respite housing don’t return to homelessness have also gone unanswered.

Lexi and Brandon on Tuesday said that they have not heard from anyone at DHHS and did not know about an offer of help. They have only had contact with a social worker from the Front Door Agency, a Nashua non-profit that helps people with housing.

Lexi said they have been approved for one month’s rent and a security deposit, so they’re looking for a place in Nashua or nearby. They sent personal documents including their monthly income, Social Security numbers and identification as part of the approval process. Now, they have to find a landlord who will accept them before Dec. 31.

She knows it’s a longshot.

“I told them we only found out a week ago that we had to be out of Granite House by Dec. 31,” Lexi said.

They were also given a number to call, the Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter. Both she and Brandon tried calling individually.

“They said we should call back when we are homeless, on the 31st,” Lexi said. “I don’t know if we can get a room somewhere until we find an apartment and still get the help from Front Door. I’m really stressed right now.”

Meanwhile, a job Brandon applied for didn’t come through, Lexi said, “but he’s been shoveling every time it snows. That helps.”

About this Author

Carol Robidoux

PublisherManchester Ink Link

Longtime NH journalist and publisher of Loves R&B, German beer, and the Queen City!